The best kind of travel when you can’t afford it or can’t be bothered has to be armchair travel. No rain delays, no lost luggage, no upset baby crying for hours and your husband physically wincing everytime a child wimpers… but I digress.
Sit back, do not adjust your seat belt, and let me take you on a magical journey to… somewhere very English in one of the friendliest states in America.
We decided that our big trip for 2013 was going to be New York, and hey, as we were in the neighbourhood(ish) we’d add Orlando’s Giant Orange into the mix. We planned to trip all over the State, exploring several different places; Cape Canaveral (NASA), Georgia, the Florida Keys and Celebration, the town of Walt Disney perfection.
We stayed in a small town called Kissimmee and a definite stop on our agenda (after an evening of lying by the pool with fruity drinks) was Universal Studios: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Disney’s Epcot. Far from being excited, I was stressed. Pacing up and down, convinced that as an inexperienced driver I was going to make Biscuit (our wee moggy) an orphan ((I’m not nuts or a crazy cat lady I swear)) it wasn’t a good start. Once landed we roll up to the airport hire company after booking the smallest car we could find only to be offered a cherry-red Ferrari. What!? I was tempted, but couldn’t risk it, and so took a larger safer car.
Still, I digress, sorry. So the next morning, up we get and make our way to Universal Studios. Best tip ever? Get there EARLY. We were almost first into the Park but as Harry Potter World is so busy and right at the far end of the Park and everyone heads to Hogwarts as their very first stop of the Day, we were still at the end of a long queue.
It. Is. Amazing.
I’m not a Potter-fanatic, just a big kid at heart and I was gobsmacked. Even Mr Kiwi who isn’t a fan (hasn’t read the books and only lasts about 20minutes into any of the movies) was astonished at the level of detail.
It’s like stepping into a dream.
You line up at the gates of Hogwarts Castle in order to queue for the biggest attraction, the Forbidden Journey ride. It’s a long snaking queue, but the genius Park designers have you wending your way through various rooms of the Harry Potter School. From the Herbology glasshouses stocked with mandrakes…
…the Dark Arts Classroom through to Dumbledores office and so much more. It has every imaginable prop, holograms of the actors and talking/moving pictures. It is crazy. (For a much better ‘walk through’ see the Universal website, it’s 3D recreation is incredible).
Before you know it 50 minutes of gazing and wandering have passed and you’re about to join the ride itself. It’s insanely fun – the setup is as if you’re on a broomstick and having adventures that Harry Potter and his mates take. It’s 3D with fantastic holograms of swooping through the trees, being chased by Dementors and over icy lakes.
Once we left the Forbidden Journey ride it was onto the Dragon Rollercoaster. I left this one to Mr Kiwi, bottling it at the very last moment and he assures me it was fantastic.
After a touch of Butterbeer tasting (yummo!) we wandered into Hogsmeade village, letting the boy recover from his rollercoaster, and explored the Owlery (^), Ollivanders Wand Shop and Flourish & Blotts. Harry Potter heaven.
Every detail was covered.
Once thoroughly explored we began to flag, and we decided to repair for repast in the Three Broomsticks. We decided to test the Pumpkin Juice and Cornish Pasties.
The Pasties were about as expensive and ok as you’d expect, but I really enjoyed the Pumpkin Juice. Cinnamony and really refreshing.
Then, as good soldiers it was onto Zonko’s Joke shop and Honeydukes. They were flabbergasting (and a marketers dream). Every item from the books you could think of was stocked there.
We went on to other areas in the park subsequently, but they didn’t quite live up to the excitement and sheer attention to details like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Well worth the stress of driving on the wrong side of the road for.